They're talking about people with terminal illnesses whose lives are prolonged in ICUs at a cost of about $10,000 a day. That might sound crass, but, in many cases, it's treatment that doesn't do much good, that only delays an inevitable death.
"Families cannot imagine there could be anything worse than their loved one dying. But in fact, there are things worse. Most generally, it's having someone you love die badly," (Dr. Ira) Byock (of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H.) said.We've heard all the diatribes from the tea-baggers -- rationing, death panels, and pulling the plug on grandma -- and thus this topic has become off-limits, but...
Asked what he means by "die badly," Byock told Kroft, "Dying suffering. Dying connected to machines. I mean, denial of death at some point becomes a delusion, and we start acting in ways that make no sense whatsoever. And I think that's collectively what we're doing."
A vast majority of Americans say they want to die at home, but 75 percent die in a hospital or a nursing home.
Multiple studies have concluded that most patients and their families are not even familiar with end-of-life options and things like living wills, home hospice and pain management.
"The real problem is that many of the patients that are being treated aggressively, if you ask them, they would prefer less aggressive care. They would prefer to be cared for at home. They'd prefer to go to hospice. If they were given a choice. But we don't adequately give them a choice," (Dr. Elliott) Fisher (of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy) said.
"At some point, most doctors know that a patient's not likely to get better," Kroft remarked.
"Absolutely," Fisher agreed. "Sometimes there's a good conversation. Often there's not. You know, patients are left alone to sort of figure it out themselves."
Read the story or watch the video. There are also two short web extra videos, "At Home, At Peace" and "Comfort and Costs."